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Overnight Health Care: Biden unveils vaccine plan with focus on mass inoculations | Worldwide coronavirus deaths pass 2 million | CDC: New variant could be dominant US strain by March

Overnight Health Care: Biden unveils vaccine plan with focus on mass inoculations | Worldwide coronavirus deaths pass 2 million | CDC: New variant could be dominant US strain by March
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Welcome to Friday’s Overnight Health Care.

The world reached a sobering milestone, passing 2 million coronavirus-related deaths. The CDC said it could get worse, with a more contagious U.K. variant expected to become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March. Meanwhile, President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenMellman: Trump voters cling to 2020 tale FDA authorizes another batch of J&J vaccine Cotton warns of China collecting athletes' DNA at 2022 Olympics MORE released a plan to combat the coronavirus. 

Biden unveils COVID-19 vaccine plan with focus on mass inoculations

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President-elect Joe Biden delivered a message on his vaccine plan Friday: Federal help is on the way.  

The Biden administration plans to use federal resources including the Federal Emergency Management Agency to launch new mass vaccination sites, Biden said Friday while laying out the details. The administration also plans to expand state and local immunization efforts across the country, including in pharmacies and community health centers.

Federally Qualified Health Centers serve more than 30 million patients each year, including many people of color and rural communities. Under the Biden administration's plan, health centers will be able to directly access vaccine supply where needed. 

“We are in a race against time,” a senior Biden transition official told reporters Thursday. “We know that health care professionals, essential workers, states, tribes and our public health infrastructure have been asked to do too much with too little.”

Biden's plan will include partnering with states and local providers to launch community vaccination centers around the country and deploy mobile vaccination units in underserved and hard-to-reach areas.

It also focuses on better communication with states, so state and local leaders fully understand their vaccine allocations and timely delivery of their ordered doses. 

Read more here

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Meanwhile, a lot of confusion today on vaccine allocations:

Governors say no additional vaccine doses coming, despite Trump admin promise

Governors are accusing the Trump administration of lying about the availability of additional coronavirus vaccines, following an announcement from top officials that doses will no longer be held in reserve.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said this week the administration would no longer be holding back the second of two doses, and encouraged states to open vaccination eligibility to more people.

But governors say there is no reserve and their limited supply of vaccines will not increase. Instead of being able to dramatically expand access to millions more people, states will have to continue to manage at their current levels.

The situation adds to growing frustration with the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed. State officials have complained about a lack of clear communication from federal officials, and that the administration has continually changed the allocation numbers.

Oregon Gov. Kate BrownKate BrownMcAuliffe looms large as Virginia Democrats pick governor nominee Oregon governor signs bill banning guns at Capitol, requiring safe storage at home New York offers 50 college scholarships in push to vaccinate teenagers MORE (D) on Friday said she learned there were no reserves after speaking to Gen. Gustave Perna of Operation Warp Speed on Thursday.

"This is a deception on a national scale. Oregon’s seniors, teachers, all of us, were depending on the promise of Oregon’s share of the federal reserve of vaccines being released to us," Brown tweeted.

Read more here

Worldwide coronavirus deaths pass 2 million

The world passed 2 million coronavirus deaths on Friday, a stunning toll that is continuing to rise as more contagious variants of the virus take hold.

The United States has had, by far, the most deaths and cases of any country in the world, at more than 390,000 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University. Brazil, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom follow. 

China reported its first death since May this week, as a World Health Organization (WHO) team arrived to investigate the origins of the pandemic there after previously expressing concerns that Beijing was hindering the probe.

China has faced scrutiny over its level of transparency on the outbreak and on the accuracy of its death and case numbers. 

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New coronavirus variants are now leading to even faster spread of the virus, with strains discovered in the U.K. and South Africa provoking particular concern. 

"It's really important to remind people, both government as well as individuals, on the responsibilities and measures we need to practice for the rest of this year at least, because even as vaccines start protecting the most vulnerable, we're not going to achieve any levels of population immunity, herd immunity, in 2021," WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said this week.

Read more here

CDC: More contagious COVID-19 variant could be dominant US strain by March 

A more contagious variant of COVID-19 that originated in the United Kingdom could be the predominant strain in the U.S. by March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned Friday. 

The new variant could threaten already strained health care resources, require extended and more rigorous use of public health strategies and increase the percentage of the population immunity needed for herd immunity, said authors of a CDC report. 

“The increased transmissibility of the … variant warrants universal and increased compliance with mitigation strategies, including distancing and masking,” the authors wrote. 

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“Higher vaccination coverage might need to be achieved to protect the public," they continue.

The U.K. variant of COVID-19 is estimated to have emerged in the country in September, quickly becoming the dominant strain in England.

It has now been detected in 30 countries, including in the U.S., where 76 cases have been identified in 10 states, the CDC said.

According to a model developed by the CDC, “rapid growth” of the variant is expected in the U.S. in early 2021 before it becomes the dominant strain in March.

Read more here

More vaccine news:

Biden taps former FDA commissioner Kessler to head vaccine efforts

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President-elect Joe Biden is tapping former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler to serve as chief science officer of the COVID-19 response and help spearhead federal efforts to vaccinate millions of Americans, the transition team announced Friday.

Kessler co-chaired Biden’s coronavirus task force during the transition and worked as FDA commissioner from 1990-1997 under former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBiden must be firm, but measured, in his message to Putin on cyberattacks Monica Lewinsky signs production deal with 20th TV Police investigating death of TV anchor who uncovered Clinton tarmac meeting as suicide MORE.

Kessler will replace Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who is currently leading Operation Warp Speed, the vaccination program started under the Trump administration. Incoming White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiLawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cybersecurity during summit with Putin Fox's John Roberts says for media, no Biden-Putin presser is a loss Harris highlights COVID-19 vaccination safety, efficacy in SC event to kick off tour MORE said Friday that the Biden administration's vaccine program will go by a different name.  

Kessler will be a key player in Biden’s plans to accelerate vaccine distribution and meet his goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.

Read more here

What we’re reading

Covid-19: Brazil hospitals 'run out of oxygen' for virus patients (BBC)

Monoclonal antibodies could ease record Covid hospitalizations. Why are they going unused? (NBC News

New coronavirus variants could cause more reinfections, require updated vaccines (Science)

CVS, Walgreens under fire for slow pace of vaccinations in nursing homes (Kaiser Health News

State by state

In LA, ambulances circle for hours and ICUs are full. Is this what Covid-19 has in store for the rest of the country? (Stat News

Maryland Senate overrides governor’s veto of prescription drug affordability board (Stat News